Your next family holiday is coming up soon and the kids are already running wild with excitement? It's never been easier for families to travel to wonderful places and have amazing experiences together, but we are aware at the same time of the detrimental impact that our travels can have on the environment. Without wanting to paint too dark of a picture, tourism accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.
But thankfully there are things that we can do as a family to be more in harmony with the environment - eco-friendly tourism without having to limit ourselves or having any less fun. Especially the current challenging times are a chance to travel more locally and rethink the way we travel. So without further ado, here are some top tips to make your family travel more sustainable.
Many of us will know that transport causes the most amount of environmental impact when travelling as a family. So how you get to your destination plays a key role for eco-friendly tourism. Just as one example, one return flight from London to New York releases more carbon than a person’s entire yearly limit to keep the climate safe! Even though long-distance flights are not really possible at the moment, it might be tempting to travel far away as soon it is possible. Whenever you can, you should better choose greener modes of transport like trains, buses or a fully-packed family car over dirtier modes like planes or cruise ships.
That said, it’s completely understandable that your family may want to visit destinations that you can only reach by place. If you choose to fly to your destination, you can reduce harmful emissions in a number of ways. You can pick the direct route, choose a greener airline that has a more environmentally friendly fleet and materials, or participate in a climate carbon offsetting programme as offered by Emirates, British Airlines and other airlines. Of course, the best way would be to do all of the above before boarding your next flight.
Support the local economy with your family
Eating at local restaurants and supporting regional businesses is an excellent way to achieve your sustainable family travel goals, offering many incredible benefits over popular tourist venues. Eating local gives your family the chance to try traditional delicacies, interact with locals, and gain a better understanding of the culture - all while reducing the emissions associated with food transportation. Plus, these types of restaurants are often far cheaper, so you’ll have more money to spend on fun family activities! Buying food at local markets is also a great way to minimise your impact on the environment, as the food here tends to get sourced in more environmentally friendly ways than in the supermarket.
Remember not to be put off by appearances - often, local restaurants and markets are more basic, yet they serve up some of the best dishes and ingredients. Just ask around the area for tips or visit travel websites like TripAdvisor, who offer plenty of information on the best local restaurants, along with reviews from other families and holidaymakers.
Opt for eco-friendly accommodation
Fortunately, eco-friendly hotels are becoming more popular and affordable. You can make your family travel more sustainable by picking an LEED-certified accommodation when you go on holiday. The certification sets a universal eco-standard for hotels and makes it easy for families to see whether the accommodation they book is green. A LEED hotel will display the certification on its website, so look out for this when considering your accommodations.
You can also find an excellent range of family-friendly and sustainable places on websites like ecobnb.com. The platform leads the way towards eco-friendly tourism and helps save 295 trees and 302 litres of water everyday! Their website also provides families with plenty of useful tips and advice on how to achieve sustainable family travel, so have a look there too.
Become a plastic-free family
Plastic waste is one of the biggest polluters. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic are thrown into our oceans every year, causing serious harm to ocean ecosystems and aquatic life. So one of the most important things we can do on our family travels is not to contribute more to this problem. You can easily reduce plastic waste and contribute to sustainable family travel by purchasing reusable water bottles for your family. Many airports and hotels offer water refilling stations where you can fill your bottles for free with clean and safe water.
But plastic doesn't just pollute the earth through tossed-away garbage, it can also enter the environment as microplastic from clothes and other materials. Families can become much more sustainable by purchasing plastic-free tents and plastic-free jackets. There are countless plastic-free and sustainable alternatives for kids and baby products that will leave no trace in nature and last much longer than non-organic alternatives.
Encourage your family to be green guests
Hotels, guest houses, and other forms of accommodation use large volumes of energy daily. However, there are plenty of simple things your family can do to save energy and reduce carbon emissions. Encourage your family to only request a change of towels and bedding once a week. We don’t change our towels and bedding every day at home, so why do it when you stay at a hotel? Hanging your towels up is a universal sign to say that you’re happy to use them again. You can also save energy by switching lights and electronics off from the wall when not in use, and only turning on aircon and heating units when necessary.
Raise awareness with your kids
The least tangible thing you can do for a more sustainable family travel might actually be the most important. By educating our kids about the importance of eco-friendly tourism and speaking to them about how they can make a difference, we will create a long-lasting positive impact on the environment. Saving the planet starts on an individual basis, so every little decision and conversation counts. We might be surprised how important this topic becomes for them and how they start making their own positive decisions. Who knows, maybe soon enough our little ones will be reminding us to turn off the lights or choose a plastic-free alternative.